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Can you have uterine fibroids without any symptoms?

by komzinski
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Uterine Fibroids
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You’d be surprised how many of my patients didn’t realize they have uterine fibroids. The thing is, about half of people with fibroids don’t experience any symptoms, and many never need treatment.

Some people with uterine fibroids do experience symptoms on occasion, including heavy periods, pain or discomfort during sex, and feeling like they need to pee all the time. For some people, the symptoms are totally manageable with over-the-counter treatments like pain medication or switching to a different kind of birth control.

Regular checkups can help spot lots of different conditions early — including uterine fibroids. Spotting an issue early can mean it’s easier to treat, so it’s smart to pay attention to your body’s signals and keep track of any symptoms.

How do health care providers diagnose uterine fibroids?

A lot of uterine fibroids are first discovered during a pelvic exam. I might notice that my patient’s uterus seems enlarged or feels rough. Next, I’ll order an ultrasound to get a closer look and a blood test to check for anemia (heavy periods can mean your body loses blood cells and more iron than normal).

Sometimes, I might use other imaging tests to confirm uterine fibroids. If my patient is over 35 and hasn’t been able to get pregnant after a year of trying, I might use X-ray imaging or something called hysterosalpingography (a special kind of X-ray for your uterus) to see if the uterine tubes are clear or if something (fibroids) might be blocking them.

If you have a fibroid and have been having heavy periods, your health care provider might suggest a procedure called hysteroscopy. This is when they insert a tiny camera into the uterus to see the uterine walls and remove any fibroid nodes they can find inside the uterine cavity.

If there are lots of fibroids or we aren’t exactly sure what’s causing your symptoms, we might recommend magnetic resonance imaging (aka an MRI).

What if I have uterine fibroids?

First, you’re not alone! More than 70 percent of women will develop fibroids at some point in their life, a study published in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics in 2020 found out. Fibroids are very common and usually benign (meaning that they won’t become cancerous). Especially if they’re small and you catch them early, you might not even notice they’re there.

If you need treatment, there are lots of options, including medication, noninvasive procedures, and surgery. Your health care provider will go over all the risks, benefits, and what it might mean for your chances of getting pregnant in the future.

Here are some questions to ask your health care provider:

  • How many fibroids do I have? How big are they? Where are they?
  • Will I need more tests?
  • Can I treat my fibroids with medication?
  • Is there medication I can take for my symptoms?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Is surgery an option for me?
  •  If I choose surgery, how long will it take me to recover?
  • Will I still be able to get pregnant?
  • Will it be easier to get pregnant after I treat my fibroids?

 

If you’re not experiencing any symptoms and your health care provider says you have fibroids, there’s usually nothing to worry about or do. Most likely, they will recommend coming in for regular checkups to see if the fibroids are growing or spreading.

Signs that your fibroids might be causing you trouble include heavier periods than normal, painful sex, feeling like you need to pee all the time, and pressure in your belly or back. If you do develop symptoms, remember that there are lots of treatment options to remove the fibroids and/or manage your symptoms. You can work with your health care provider to find the right one for you.

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